Freya 800AD: Viking era by Jean Mead @jeanmeadauthor #review #blogger #historical #mystery

I am so excited to be featuring a book I absolutely love. Not only is the cover one of the best I’ve seen in this genre, but the deep layers of research and the history of the time make it a must-read for all historical mystery lovers.  If you enjoy Viking war heroes, this book will provide a window into the harsh Nordic winters and a remarkable woman called Freya. Be sure to check out More Exciting News after my review.

Book description

Freya 800AD: Viking era by [Mead, Jean]Viking Era Fiction – Freya Sigvat lived more than a thousand years ago at the beginning of the Viking raids on Britain. When her husband, and the men of the settlement, sail across the Norse Sea to wreak havoc on Britain, Freya is left to manage the almost deserted settlement. Knut, a man of the mountains with a warped and cruel mind crosses the threshold of her family longhouse with devastating consequences. In a cruel twist of fate, Freya is forced to desert those she loves to live in isolation. Surviving through a long dark winter with wolves and bears roaming the frozen wilderness. This is the story of a remarkable woman, her heroism and terrifying adventure. The drama of a family feud, romance, secrets and eventual betrayal.

Book Links: US flag US here  British flag UK here

Print Length: 267 pages

Publisher: Novel Publishing (October 6, 2014)

Publication Date: October 6, 2014

ASIN: B00O8VCKQO

Thriller & Suspense Action Fiction

Historical Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Fiction

Action Thriller Fiction

Review

Freya Sigvat lies awake in the longhouse dreading the coming day. The thought of her husband leaving for the wide open sea in his precious longboat is breaking her heart. Perhaps the next time she hears his voice will be in her head. Mead takes her readers back to the time of the Vikings, a time of hardship and restrained emotions, a time of war and heroes, where tenderness doesn’t belong. It’s easy to conjure scenes of ‘dark crests rising out of thin mists’ – slopes a myriad of greys, lilacs and blues and a dark peppering of oak and pine trees. You can even smell the smoldering moss of the fire and the honeyed mead.

Old Unnur has the ears of the gods and she can see into the future. With a good cup of mead she’s a hearty companion with a sharp mind full of memories. But Freya’s mind is hardly on the mead or the warmth of the fire. She thinks of Olaf, feels the pull of his spirit, whilst Olaf’s mind is on battle, his sword high over his head in the excitement of it all. My senses warn me his return will be anything but ordinary. Will these men conquer those far off lands? What plunder will they bring back?

Each chapter is laced with intrigue and when one danger is past, another slams full force into the community. There is no doubt this book has been well researched. It is poetically written, movie-worthy and one that will take you on an exciting journey providing a marvelous window into Norske society.

What people are saying:

Beautifully mastered historical fiction. I definitely recommend this book to all those who like historical fiction or can’t seem to get enough of Vikings!  – J.M. Northrup

A step back in time. Another compelling book by Jean Mead as she takes us back in time to life in a bygone age.  – Rosalie Marsh

If you want to know how life was in those times, look no further than this story of Freya. – Gunnardottir

A viking heroine! When I finished reading, I found the characters still inhabiting my imagination.  – Mary Rose

The characters are rich and complex, especially Freya. I was drawn into their lives and hungry for more. – Andrew Ternay

Jean Mead has researched thoroughly to create a novel that takes its reader to Ninth Century Norway – to a world of longhouses, sleeping benches, and Pictish hordes. – Amazon Reviewer

A gritty drama. With the ships movements I could easily have been onboard. – Amazon Reviewer

More exciting news!

Jean Mead has a new book coming out on 8th December with pre-order available mid November. You’ll find the blurb below on the back of this beautiful book jacket. Mark your calendars and reserve space on your book shelves, coffee tables and kindles. You won’t want to miss this one!

About the Author:

Jean MeadJean Mead was born in Warwickshire in England. Moved to Staffordshire at the age of seven and attended the Howard school in Elford. Later moved to a school in Tamworth. The family moved back to Warwickshire and at the age of thirteen Jean attended Sharmans Cross High for Girls.

Writing was always a favourite occupation. Many dozen of short stories were published in magazines in the UK, America, Ireland and Australia.

The Other Famous Five, a novel for children was her first book to be published. A contemporary novel written under another name followed. Eventually The Widow Makers and The Widow Makers:Strife were published.

Freya 800 AD is the latest book. This is the story of a woman living more than a thousand years ago at the beginning of the Viking raids on Britain.

A contemporary novel No Goodbye will be in bookshops early 2013.

Jean is now completing the 3rd book in the historical trilogy, The Widow Makers:Road’s End.

More books by Jean Mead:

jean meads books

 

Top Six Books I’ve Read This Year

Due to a transfer in career from New Mexico to Utah, I decided to take a brief hiatus from writing. Having completed a stand-alone thriller and nearing the end of the Detective Temeke series, there’s no better escape than reading books. Here are six of my favorites this year written by brilliant, talented writers.

AAA Oliver

Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press, (Simon and Schuster) Pages: 273. Rating 4.3. Reviews 315. Genre: Family Life, Psychological Thriller, Mystery, Thriller and Suspense.

Brief Description: Oliver Ryan has the perfect life. Elegant and seductive, he wants for nothing, sharing a lovely home with his steadfast wife, Alice, who illustrates the award-winning children’s books that have brought him wealth and fame. Until one evening, after eating the dinner Alice has carefully prepared, Oliver savagely assaults her and leaves her for dead.

Described as a whydunnit rather than a whodunnit, Unraveling Oliver is an intricately woven story of a man who apparently has everything. Or does he? Highly suspenseful and told from the perspectives of the injured parties, it is the tragic story of a fractured mind. Some of the reviews indicate that readers found the alternating points of view hard to get to grips with, but I love this style. If a book doesn’t have that extra layer it can fall flat for me and I end up distracted and looking for food. This story intrigued me and after the last page, the plot was thick enough to stick for at least a week. Highly recommended.

The wife between us

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press. Pages: 342. Rating 4.2. Reviews 1,739. Genre: Women’s Fiction, Psychological, Detective, Suspense.

Brief Description: When you read this book, you will make many assumptions.
You will assume you are reading about a jealous ex-wife.
You will assume she is obsessed with her replacement – a beautiful, younger woman who is about to marry the man they both love.
You will assume you know the anatomy of this tangled love triangle.
Assume nothing.

I found this story intriguing although a little slow to begin with. A twisty plot of love and betrayal written from two points of view, Nellie (the bride) and Vanessa (the disturbed ex). You you get the impression fairly early on that we are not getting the whole story and I had to go back and reread sections to make sure I had it down correctly. It’s well-read territory, twists and turns are a little contrived but around the half-way mark the reveal took me by surprise. The book is described as a clever suspense novel and compared to The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl. I’m not sure it’s quite up there, but it’s well worth the read.

Silent Girls

Publisher: Witness Impulse/Harper Collins. Pages: 411. Rating 4.0. Reviews: 1,406. Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense. Heist. Supernatural. United States.

Brief Description: Frank Rath thought he was done with murder when he turned in his detective’s badge to become a private investigator and raise a daughter alone. Then the police in his remote rural community of Canaan find an ’89 Monte Carlo abandoned by the side of the road, and the beautiful teenage girl who owned the car seems to have disappeared without a trace.

I had heard of Eric Rickstad but not read any of his novels. Needless to say, I was hooked at the first few pages. He has a rhythmic writing style I love, although I could have done with less of the short sentences. They were a little choppy and when more than one character (narrative voice) attempted the same style, it can get confusing. This was another book I thought I had figured out, but nope. The ending, for me, was a serious twist. Not everyone likes cliffhangers, so I hope he comes up with a second book. Recommended.

I let you go

Publisher: Berkley, Penguin Group. Pages: 377. Rating: 4.3. Reviews: 1,275. Genre: Women’s Fiction, Crime, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense. Detective. Psychological.

Brief Description: On a rainy afternoon, a mother’s life is shattered as her son slips from her grip and runs into the street… I Let You Go follows Jenna Gray as she moves to a ramshackle cottage on the remote Welsh coast, trying to escape the memory of the car accident that plays again and again in her mind and desperate to heal from the loss of her child and the rest of her painful past.

The blurb for I Let You Go enticed me to buy it and I was glad I did. The book tells the story of a mother who loses her child in an accident (not a spoiler since this is in the blurb) during those one of those dangerous split seconds of inattention. Its the hit-and-run the reader focuses on and Jenna’s way of coping with this terrible tragedy.  Unputdownable and disturbing, and brought home by brilliant, atmospheric writing. Just too many layers of this particular onion that I enjoyed, a truly emotional journey that made me feel no matter what Jenna did, she was going to pay the price at some point. Highly recommended.

all the light

Publisher: Scribner, Simon and Schuster. Pages: 545. Rating: 4.6. Reviews: 28,078. Genre: Historical Fiction, French, German, Military.

Brief Description: Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

Probably one of my favorite books of all time, All The Light We Cannot See takes you through the lives of Marie-Laure, her father and the gadget-obsessed German orphan Werner, tied together by a dangerous and priceless gem. It’s an intricate masterpiece that draws you in so you can’t fail to become personally connected. With alternating character chapters, the atrocities and the lasting scars on each will very likely create an image of war some of us have never imagined. I think this book will haunt me for some time. Highly recommended.

Beneath a Scarlet Sky

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing. Pages: 526. Rating: 4.8. Reviews: 19,097. Genre: Literary Fiction, Biographical, Women’s Fiction. 

Pino Lella wants nothing to do with the war or the Nazis. He’s a normal Italian teenager—obsessed with music, food, and girls—but his days of innocence are numbered. When his family home in Milan is destroyed by Allied bombs, Pino joins an underground railroad helping Jews escape over the Alps, and falls for Anna, a beautiful widow six years his senior.

With phenomenal ratings—4.8—it’s no surprise that this cinematic and literary work was chosen by Pascal Pictures to be made into a movie. Based on a true story and set against the backdrop of Nazi-occupied Milan during World War II, this book carries an intense pace and leaves you feeling like one of the characters and not just the reader. Pino becomes a driver for Major General Leyer, and through his eyes we ‘see’ all the harrowing Nazi atrocities and the allied advances to liberate northern Italy. Full of action and suspense, it will keep you on the edge of your seat. The writing is poetic and impeccable and as quoted within the opening chapters, nothing will ever be the same. Highly recommended.

There’s nothing like reading a book with that extra special magic, the type of book you can’t bear to finish. If you’re searching for a compulsively readable novel, these must-read books, complete with publisher information, ratings, genre and descriptions, are impossible to put down. 

Next, I will be reading a book by Tess Gerritson, Paula Hawkins and K.L. Slater.

 

 

 

Review Tour – Song Hereafter: 1153: Hispania and the Isles of Albion (The Troubadours Quartet Book 4) Published by @The 13th Sign #BookReview

I am thrilled to note that award winning author Jean Gill has published the fourth book in her much loved Troubadours series. Song Hereafter has already garnered five star reviews from bestselling authors and publishers alike and promises to entice readers further with a great book description. The Wishing Shelf calls this book  ‘Evocative and thoroughly riveting. A vividly-written, historical saga.’

Amazon reviews:

Exquisitely Written Historical Fiction Readers of historical fiction will appreciate Gill’s attention to detail, romance readers will be captivated by the relationship between the lovers, adventurers will appreciate the thrills of battles, and all readers can celebrate a tale well told. Author Elizabeth Horton-Newton.

It’s easy to see why this author has won so many … A blast of medieval air and irresistible storytelling you can’t put down…. It’s easy to see why this author has won so many awards and readers and fans across the globe. She gets her historical facts right when it really matters because her research and her dedication to the finer details of the period is impeccable. Bookpreneur

Historical Fiction at its Best For me, this book has it all; love, adventure, and politics in the twelfth century make for another stunning read from the uber talented Jean Gill.
I can see why the Troubadours Quartet has won many awards and highly recommend the whole series. You won’t be disappointed. Deb McEwan

 

Jean Gill

Buy links:  US http://amzn.to/2yP6lIQ   UK http://amzn.to/2AsLOX8

Book Description:

Formats: Paperback, Kindle Edition, eBook

Print Length: 328 pages

Publisher: The 13th Sign

Thrilling conclusion to an award-winning series. Global Ebooks Award for Best Historical Fiction. FINALIST in The Wishing Shelf and the Chaucer Awards. The Historical Novel Society Editor’s Choice.

Dragonetz and Estela: the troubadours. They thought they knew each other but they didn’t even know themselves. 

Dragonetz has failed Eleanor of Aquitaine once. Now that she plans to be Queen of England he could make amends. Although prepared to risk his own life on an impossible quest, a knight should protect his lady, or so say the troubadour songs.

His lady, however, plays to a different tune and she wants partnership, not protection. Estela and Dragonetz fight their enemies, both on the battlefield and in the courts of Christendom, from the sophistication of Zaragossa to the wilds of Wales. Can they win through to song hereafter, together? Or have they broken one rule too many?

Mystery, intrigue, romance and adventure fill the pages of this magnificent conclusion to an epic series sure to delight fans of Elizabeth Chadwick and Bernard Cornwell. Jean Gill captures the soul of the age and the characters who lived in it.

‘Evocative and thoroughly riveting. A vividly-written, historical saga.’ The Wishing Shelf
‘Historical Fiction at its best.’ Karen Charlton, the Detective Lavender Mysteries
jeangill.com

About the Author:

Jean GillJean Gill is a Welsh writer and photographer living in the south of France with two scruffy dogs, a beehive named ‘Endeavour, a Nikon D750 and a man. For many years, she taught English and was the first woman to be a secondary headteacher in Wales. She is mother or stepmother to five children so life was hectic.

Publications are varied, including prize-winning poetry and novels, military history, translated books on dog training, and a cookery book on goat cheese. With Scottish parents, an English birthplace and French residence, she can usually support the winning team on most sporting occasions.

Book-Review

Brief Review:

A blast of medieval air and irresistible storytelling you can’t put down. The fourth and final book in the Troubadours Series which continues with Dragonetz los Pros and Estela de Matin, two characters I have been rooting for since the very beginning. Without giving a précis of the book, I would rather give interested readers a ‘feel’ for what they are about to read.

Song Hereafter is brought to life in ways that only Jean Gill fans will appreciate. It’s easy to see why this author has won so many awards, readers and fans across the globe. She gets her historical facts right when it really matters because her research and her dedication to the finer details of the period is impeccable. With courtly intrigue and power struggles, you can’t help but feel the beauty and live the fear. Swept along by the unique flavor and mood of the story, I particular enjoyed the accounts of medicine and healing, wills and hunting deer, architecture, singing and the wise traveler. Fascinating aspects of the time and had me pinned to my reader.

I’m very sad, however, to see the last of these captivating and enchanting historical novels. Although the books could be stand-alones, I recommend reading all four from the beginning to gain a thorough insight of the period and a deeper sense of these well-rounded and richly developed characters.

Other Books in the Series By Jean Gill

Jean series

You can find out more about the author at:

Amazon     Goodreads       Facebook       Blogspot     Twitter

Sign up for Jean’s newsletter at www.jeangill.com for exclusive news, offers and a free book. If you review one of Jean’s books you can add a dog to Jean’s Readers Dogs Hall of Fame on her website.

Contact Jean at jean.gill@wanadoo.fr with comments or questions. She loves to hear from readers.

 

Please vote for The 9th Hour!

Thank you so much for all those who have voted on The 9th Hour and Chasing Pharaohs, both longlisted for the Summer Indie Book Awards 2016, in Crime Fiction, Thriller Fiction and Historical Fiction.

indie-award-voting

For those who would like to vote, click on the links below to find The 9th Hour, scroll down to the categories. Crime and Thriller are available and The 9th Hour is listed under both. Check the box next to the Book, scroll down to the bottom of the page and hit the VOTE button. It will take you to another screen which shows a list of all the books chosen this year.

Voting is open until Saturday.

The 9th Hour in Crime ~ eepurl.com/cdnpEj

The 9th Hour in Thriller ~eepurl.com/cdnpEj

Tight Plot, Great Characters, Great Writing.

Thank you to Elizabeth Horton-Newton, Author for her amazing review of The 9th Hour.

Set in colorful New Mexico, The 9th Hour successfully combines the intense investigation to find a serial killer before he strikes again with the inner workings of the killer’s mind. Into this mix comes a British born detective of African descent and a killer obsessed with Nordic mythology. Stibbe’s ability to bring these diverse elements together shows skilled writing. Her ability to do this effectively, holding the attention of the reader shows real talent.
Detective David Temeke brings a passion to his investigation that is softened by his sense of humor. Teamed with Malin Santiago whose mother was Norwegian and who speaks the language, Temeke has personal issues that crop up during the investigation. Malin has a somewhat dark past herself and struggles with demons of her own. While giving the characters an added dimension, Stibbe manages to keep these side stories from interfering with the plot; finding the serial killer before he claims another victim.
Providing insight into the workings of the police department investigating the crimes, Stibbe builds a tight story with characters that evoke emotions from sympathy to downright disgust.
The character that elicits the most sympathy is Darryl Williams, a distraught father dealing with the worst tragedy a parent can face, the murder of a child. As Williams deals with his loss and the difficulty of raising his remaining daughter’s, the reader is drawn along, sharing his pain.
The story moves forward smoothly, the tension grows, and just when you think everything is about to be resolved, bang; along comes another dark surprise. I highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys a fast paced and dark detective story. I also look forward to more investigations with Detective Temeke and hopefully his partner Malin Santiago.

Consider also voting for Chasing Pharaohs: A Novel of Ancient Egypt for Best Historical Fiction: eepurl.com/cdnpEj – Scroll down to Historical Category and find Chasing Pharaohs in the listings.

chasing-award-indie

Thank you for voting. You ROCK!

A Warm Welcome to author, Kristin Gleeson

Kristin Gleeson

Photograph by Jean Gill

I am really excited to welcome author Kristin Gleeson to my blog today. Kristin is originally from Philadelphia and now lives in Ireland, in the West Cork Gaeltacht, where she teaches art classes, plays harp, sings in an Irish choir and runs two book clubs for the village library.

She holds a Masters in Library Science and a Ph.D. in history, and for a time was an administrator of a national denominational archives, library and museum in America.

Myths and other folk tales have always fascinated her and she combined her love of these tales with her harp playing and performed as a professional harper/storyteller at events in Britain, America and Ireland.

Kristin has given us an excerpt from The Imp of Eye, Book 1 of the Renaissance Sojourner Series.

Excerpt from The Imp of Eye

London 1440

Imp of Eye(Barnabas, a thirteen year old orphan, is employed by the woman known as the Witch of Eye, Margery Jourdemayne, placed there by his guardian, Canon Thomas Southwell. He’s just been reprimanded for refusing to do a reading in the showstone for the Duchess of Gloucester)

I knows where I’ll find a welcome. Off down to the river to me mate Tom, the wherry boatman. We’s been mates for a long time and I loves it there with him on the river. Sometimes he lets me row when he’s got no people on board. Then I feel like I can go anywhere. Even Spain, Jerusalem and them places where they had the crusades long ago.

Me luck’s wif me. Tom is there in his wherry just about to take off wif two men bound downriver. ‘Barney-boy! You’re late.’

I’m small and quick, so I jumps onto the boat as light as a feather. I’m good at this and Tom knows it and grins. We shove each other like pals do and I settle in the back. I ain’t sposed to be here wifout paying, like, but since we’s mates he says it’s okay as long as I pretends I’m his boy.

The water in the boat’s bottom seeps into me clogs but it don’t bother me. Some say the river’s stink could stun an ox when it’s summer time, but I loves it. I look out to the river and imagine meself on a fine big ship, sailing to places where there’s so much sand you can’t see nofink else and you feel warm all the time. The tide is with us, so the run is quick, and before you know it I’m at Queenhithe docks helping the two fine gentlemun out.

I decides to stay a while at the docks. Besides the barges, it’s full of cayers, cogs and caravels what have come from all over. It’s the place to see different kinds of people, like sailors with gold earrings and dark skin and strange clothes, hoisting cargo, coiling up the ropes and shouting all sorts. I tries to talk to ‘em. Most times they only speak their own strange lingo, but I do get lucky and find some what can understand me. And that’s the best.

Today I’m not so lucky, and I goes wondering for a while, just taking in the sights before I hear a shout and a stout hand grabs me collar. Father Thomas.

‘I thought I might find you here, you young cur,’ he says with a growl. ‘Why didn’t you come by yesterday as I instructed?’ He starts dragging me along the streets and it’s no secret to me where we’re heading. His own church, St Stephen’s in Walbrook. Nearly thirteen years ago some jade dumped me in a dung heap on St Barnabas Day and that’s where this man found me. Thomas Southwell, Canon of St Stephen’s Chapel in the palace of Westminster and rector of St Stephen’s Walbrook. And a physician too. All them titles don’t satisfy his need for more, though.

The duke and duchess of Gloucester

Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester and Eleanor, Duchess of Gloucester

We reach the church and make our way to his rooms in the building beside it. After a word to his man we go into his study and he locks the door. Next door is the room I used to sit with the other foundlings and learn me writing, reading and Latin. I loved it, but that learning is little use to me now. There ain’t no escaping Father Thomas and what he wants.

 

A moment later there’s a knock on the door and one of his servants brings in two steaming trenchers and sets it on the small table.

‘Hungry, Barnabas?’ he asks.

Me mouth waters. I sits down on the stool. The steam makes me nose run and I wipes it wif my sleeve. I can see the bone and gristle bobbing about on the surface. Boiled onion and some kind of greenery.

‘Eat up, we’ve much to do,’ Father Thomas says.

I takes up the horn spoon and slurp up the contents. I can’t say I ain’t hungry because ain’t I always? Wishing there was more, I lick the last drops on the spoon. I look up, and see his pale eyes watching me.

‘I need you to scry for me, Barnabas.’

I groan inwardly. Seeing spirits is what got me in a bother in the first place, and why Margery Jourdemayne took me on in her household. I’d as lief be a gong-farmer’s servant than work as a scryer. Never had no choice, though. Once Father Thomas found I could see spirits, he taught me the rest. Conjuring’s a burning offence, though. I’ve smelt them fires at Smithfield in me dreams and actually saw a burning once and I can’t forget it. It’s the smell of cooking flesh what gets to you, and then there’s the screaming. That’s another matter.

‘I’ve water ready in the bowl,’ says Father Thomas.

I wipes me mouth on the grease-stiff cuff of me sleeve and gives him a sullen nod.

The bowl’s heavy; black wiv heat and age. I reckon someone used to cook in it, but Father Thomas keeps it just for scrying now. I watches the liquid wobble against the sides and settle, and then I bends me mind to the task. The water’s smooth like the glass Mistress Jourdemayne keeps in her chamber. Her husband bought it as a gift, so she can admire herself. She caught me looking in it once and boxed me ears.

La Plauseance

La Pleausance

Fierce now, I shut out everyfink else and gets still-like and the quiet settles on me like a warm cloak. It’s a feeling I likes and I just let it stay there for a bit before I looks and stares at the inky liquid. In a wink me mind kind of opens up inside, so I’m looking and not looking into the water, if you know what I mean. It’s like I see through it and out into a different land. I like that.

A figure pops up and hobbles across me mind’s eye.

‘It’s Limpin’ Sam,’ I says out loud. ‘He’s got a partridge under his arm.’

I’ve seen this spirit before. He dresses in rags like a beggar, and his hands is blue wiv cold, but he has the merriest face. His eyes is the colour of blackbird’s eggs, and he’s a snub nose, dimples in his cheeks and a wide, curving mouth. Sometimes he sings, sweet as a chorister, but he don’t speak. He brings me fings instead. I’m supposed to work out what they mean. I don’t know who he is or was, but he likes me and he brings me stuff. This night it’s a bird.

 

‘It’s a fat partridge,’ I says. Father Thomas’ bref warms me cheek as he leans in to hear. ‘Sign of plenty, I reckon. Someone’s got somefink good coming his way.’

‘Ah!’ Father Thomas sighs wiv satisfaction.

‘He’s showing me a cooking pot over a fire, now.’ I watches Limpin’ Sam pointing to the bird and then sticking it whole into the bubbling water, feathers and all.

Wiv a squeal of surprise I jerk back.

‘What is it?’ asks the priest.

‘Forget what I said before. I got it wrong. There’s some fellow wiv fine feathers…wealthy, fat, thinks well of hisself…struts about and imagines he’s doing real well, but he should take care he don’t get into hot water. He ain’t very bright, by the look of it. He’s in for a rare shock. Somebody’s out to teach him a lesson. If you know him, Father, you should warn him to beware them what he’s offended.’

‘Enough!’ The priest’s voice is harsh now. He ain’t pleased wiv this information. ‘Summon Bethor, Barnabas. I want to be sure.’

But I don’t like this at all. Bethor’s a different kettle of fish from Limpin’ Sam. He’s a mighty spirit what can grant men priceless treasure, help them create miraculous medicines or be powerful likes a lord or somefink. It’s a chancy fing calling these spirits. They doesn’t like being told. Father Thomas says Bethor’s a good angel and won’t harm me. But Bethor comes in a great whirling storm and his face is bright as fire. I’d rather let them as wants to come to me, like Limpin’ Sam, than getting a proud angel to do me bidding. But I don’t argue.

I says the words what Father Thomas’s taught me so carefully, and wait, feeling me skin prickle and hearing the air rushing in me ears. The ritual has to be done right, he says, though I don’t understand half the words I have to use. The priest prompts me now and then.

‘Speak.’

It’s always a shock when Bethor’s voice roars in me head and dazzles me eyes with the blaze of his appearance. Flames leap like sun-rays round his head. The light’s so blinding I can’t make out his features.

‘What shall I ask him to do?’

The priest’s fingers is talons on me arm and his breath grows moist against me ear. ‘Tell him to bring us wealthy patrons,’ he whispers.

Me mistress needs customers, he means, and she’ll pay him a portion of what she makes from them. I nod anyway and do as I’m bid.

Medieval London

Medieval London

I feels Bethor’s desire to be free. He strains against me will and when I tell him what he must do, I knows he thinks we’re greedy bastards and he’ll make us pay. I lets him know in me thoughts like, not to blame me and that like him, I’m only obeying orders. He laughs. I let him go and he’s gone in a whoosh of burning flames.

‘What did he say?’ Father Thomas grips me arm tight.

‘He’ll do it.’ I says the words to send off the spirit what he taught me then, even though the spirit’s already gone.

‘Good boy.’ Father Thomas pats me shoulder.

But I’m seeing somefink else—a woman in the black water of the scrying bowl, and I can’t take me eyes off her. She’s dressed in a white linen shift and carrying a heavy candle. The flame of it flickers dangerously and the hot wax drips on cobblestones by her naked feet. What does it mean?

‘Enough, boy!’

The priest is shaking me back into consciousness. I smells the draughty chapel and musty old robes, and someone’s hammering on the chapel door.

‘Who’s there?’

Father Thomas is on his feet and snatches up the bowl. The water spills on the floor. His robe swishes as he crosses the floor, the lone candle in his hand, and he disappears through to the larger room.

The hammering continues and then I hears the slide of the bolt and the door creak open and some whispering. Father Thomas comes back in the room and a man follows him. I knows by his long gown and cap that he’s one of those learned men what Father Thomas likes to talk wif.

‘This is my boy, Barnabas,’ Father Thomas says. ‘No need to worry. He knows how to keep secrets.’

The man’s creepy an all—got a beaky nose and face like a skull. Before I knows it, Father Thomas wraps a musty, old cloak round me shoulders and he puts some wood on the ashes of the little fire. Thin green smoke trickles from it, making the man cough.

‘Sleep, Barnabas,’ Father Thomas says. There’s a note of warning in his voice as I curls up in the cloak.

They whispers away then. It’s just loud enough to keep me awake but not enough so’s I can understand what they’re saying. Eventually, I manages to drift off.

When I wakes I’m stiff wiv cold in the little black room. The fire’s out but I can see the dark lump of the priest on his pallet and another dark shape what I takes to be the man, huddled near the hearth. I tries to shut me eyes and crawl back into sleep, but I’m chilled to the bone. Me head frobs and me eyes is full of sand, and though I try shifting this way and that, it’s no use, cos me bladder’s full now. As soon as the light turns grey, I hauls meself up and creep to the little niche what the priest uses as a privy.

The man groans as I sigh in the relief of making water, even though I’m shivering. There’s a bite in the morning air what makes me arms all goose-flesh, and I wriggles me toes to stop ‘em from going numb.

There’s no sense in lingering. There’s nofink to eat here, and soon people will be filling this place. Father Thomas snores steady and deep now, so I rolls up the old cloak, leave it by the door and shoots back the bolts. The man stirs, but he don’t wake. I shake like a dog and sneaks out into the day.

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The Most Excellent Worldwide Book Tour ~ Mark Fine

Author: Mark Fine

Genre: ​Romance / Suspense / Historical Drama​

Books:  The Zebra Affaire: An Apartheid Love Story​ from The Sub-Saharan Saga​

Official Site

​Bio

Mark Fine (1)​Mark Fine was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. He has made the United States his home since 1979, living in New York, Minneapolis, and Los Angeles.
For four decades he has worked alongside world famous recording artists. He eventually launched his own award-winning record label, Hammer & Lace, with a mandate to produce benefit albums in support of such causes as breast cancer awareness, at-risk children, and wildlife conservation.
For these philanthropic initiatives Mark was voted by Varietymagazine as the “Music Executive with 20/20 Vision.” He has also contributed articles to entertainment industry publications, and conducted public speaking engagements at multimedia events.
​ ​
Now he resides in the South Bay, where he lives with his two sons, his “significant other” and Charlie, a neighborhood dog that drops in from time to time. There he wrote the historic romance novel,The Zebra Affaire. Set in apartheid South Africa, Mark brings an insider’s perspective to the gripping account of a bi-racial couple’s forbidden love.​

Accomplishments

​Finalist. BGS Best ​Book 2015 Award, Dublin, Ireland

Blurb

Mark Fine (2)Apartheid, South Africa

In the spring of 1976 matters of the heart are strictly controlled by racist doctrines. In that toxic mix of segregation and tribal mistrust, an unlikely union between a black man from Malawi and a white woman—an Afrikaner—shocks the nation unaccustomed to such a public affair. All sides across the color divide are represented in the interracial couple’s painful journey in an unaccepting world. The lovers find themselves in the crosshairs of the racist regime’s cold-blooded enforcer, Mal Zander, who will stop at nothing to crush their union and future hopes for a colorblind nation.

The intimate and emotional love story of Elsa and Stanwell is exposed for all to see under the harsh glare of television, newly introduced. In a narrative that’s intense—vividly authentic, and thought provoking—the reader will witness Elsa and Stanwell’s desperate fight to remain together—as the apartheid nation waged a deadly struggle for liberation…and eventual redemption in the guise of prisoner #46664, Nelson Mandela.

Review

It is not often a book as intensely dazzling as “The Zebra Affaire” by Mark Fine comes along. A forbidden love story takes place against the dramatic background of 1970’s South Africa and apartheid. Fine draws you into the story cautiously, laying the groundwork for the eventual affair between Elsa and Stanwell. By gently educating the reader with the background of the conflicts in South Africa, awareness of the difficulties faced by the star crossed lovers is enhanced. This is more than a racial segregation issue; there is a deeper issue brewing in South Africa. Tribal conflicts cause significant damage to a country beset by violence and political unrest.

As the love of Elsa and Stanwell grows deeper and more intense they are assisted by some to strengthen their bond. While segregation forbids open encouragement of their union, friends support them quietly. But the strict Afrikaner regime stands against them if not publicly at least in a behind closed doors attack on their union. While they flaunt their affair the government seems to stand in stunned silence as the world looks on. But the fanatics behind the scenes are both appalled and disgusted by their obvious sexual relationship and strive to expose and punish them for breaking hundreds years old laws.
With vibrant descriptions of both the beauty and ugliness of South Africa the story weaves its way to an intense climax. Waiting for the resolution of the love affair the reader will also wait for the resolution of apartheid. Knowing the eventual outcome of South African politics and the rise of Nelson Mandela it is easy to anticipate the same result for Stanwell and Elsa.

I highly recommend this lush and beautifully written story. Fine’s use of words is akin to an artist’s use of the palette; this is not a black and white story, this is a rainbow story with the rich colors of lives in turmoil. In a word, it is brilliant. If I could rate it higher I would do so.

Read an Excerpt

He needed to make it right. Elsa had misunderstood him. She believed he’d rejected their child and made a mockery of their love. It upset Stanwell that she wouldn’t accept his explanation that he was preoccupied by a cruel government stalking them. And that his immediate concern was for her safety, leaving him little room to truly grasp her good tidings.

So he returned to the way of his people, and prepared for Elsa a love letter—made from primitive colored beads.

Stanwell carefully harvested the beads from a family heirloom, a ceremonial loincloth of his mother’s that she in turn had inherited from her mayi. His mother had thrust the rolled leather apron into his grasp as he set to leave Malawi for the City of Gold, and, with tears in her eyes, had wished him the blessings of his ancestors.

His message to Elsa would not be in words, but in colors. Stanwell patiently threaded tiny antique beads into a delicate necklace of such intricate design it belied his rugged, workman-like hands.

The beaded chain was predominantly yellow—the color of corn touched by the sun—and signified fertility and wealth. Hanging from the center was the rectangular “love letter”—a chevron of black and white beads trimmed with red and pink. The charcoal-black beads pledged marriage, the ivory white beads promised spiritual love, and the red beads—juicy-red like pomegranate seeds—vowed strong, physical love. But the single tier of pink beads, the color of Elsa’s lips, was the most significant; these shiny little beads declared Stanwell’s commitment to the birth of their child.

⧑⧒

Elsa accepted the uniquely crafted peace offering. She was touched by his handiwork, and the effort and thought he’d put into its creation. Happy tears rolled down her cheeks as Stanwell gently described the significance of each colored bead. At the moment he placed the necklace around her neck, Elsa’s hand reached up for his, and then she turned to face him. Stanwell cupped her face in his hands—a bas-relief in ebony and alabaster—and held her close. No longer doubting his intent, Elsa raised her lips to his. Tenderly they kissed their sorrows away.

Impetuously Stanwell knelt at Elsa’s feet. He placed his lips on her belly and kissed it. Then on his knees he began an earnest conversation with her tummy, whispering away in his mother tongue.

Elsa had never heard him speak the language of his people before. “What were you saying to our child?” she asked.

Stanwell first touched his fingers to his lips and then to hers. “Hush, I was speaking to our son,” he said.

“A son! How do you know it’s a boy?”

“I know,” he said quietly.

Elsa saw the conviction in Stanwell’s face; there was no doubt. She then knew it to be true. A trill of excitement coursed through her body. For the first time it was real; in her belly, created by their love, was their son. A boy destined to become a unique individual, a manifestation of the union of two great heritages, with skin a beautiful coffee hue. Such a child would be incapable of bigotry and tribalism.

“How could the white half of him hate his black half, or vice versa?” Elsa said softly to Stanwell. “He will be our wonderful gift to Africa.”

 As they gently affirmed their belief in each other, all was still except for music that filtered into the room from somewhere in the backyard. It was mesmerizing. The melody and rhythm remained steadfast, yet as the minutes passed, evocative layers of complexity were added. Both Elsa and Stanwell were fond of the recording, and knew it by the name “Mannenburg.”

But the anguished cry of the saxophone soaring over the hypnotic strains of the keyboard meant something else, something hopeful for Elsa and Stanwell. This plaintive masterpiece by Dollar Brand was the birth of a wonderful new sound called Cape Jazz—a fusion of American jazz and local Marabi music from the District Six township—another unconventional, yet fruitful meld of two musical forms and cultural traditions.

⧑⧒

It was dark—probably after midnight. Stanwell was already in motion. Something had alerted him, something rustling by the window. Then the barking started.

Elsa woke. “What is it?” she asked.

“It’s Leo. He’s barking outside our window.”

“Ridgebacks don’t really bark. Something must be wrong.”

Stanwell, about to lunge through the door, stopped in his tracks. A fusillade of snarls and growls had replaced the barking; then a volley of frantic curses, “Jy’s ‘n dood hond ! Jy is ‘n duiwel !” [You’re a dead dog! You are the devil!], filled the night, followed by pounding footsteps and a thud as a body made hard contact with the fence, then he heard the desperate night caller scramble to safety.

Stanwell opened the door. A proud Leo—panting, salivating—stood with a trophy in his jaw. It was the ripped back pocket from a now tattered pair of jeans.

At daybreak, among the churn of muddied footprints they discovered an overstuffed man’s wallet. Inside was the firearm license and driver’s license of a certain Ulrich van Zyl. Elsa and Stanwell recognized the face; it was “Thick,” one of the monsters who’d attempted to rape Elsa in the elevator.

Crass reality had forever invaded their discreet oasis. It was a chilling development. Stanwell hugged Elsa to his chest. Mal Zander’s stooges were closing in. Yet still Stanwell couldn’t bring himself to tell Elsa about his clash with the Security Branch operative. And he hoped he would never have to do so.

Interview with Mark Fine

Angela B. Chrysler: I want to take a moment to welcome Mark Fine, author of THE ZEBRA AFFAIRE available on Amazon: http://bit.ly/ZebraAffaireKindle

Thank you so much for speaking with me, Mark. Please take a moment to tell us about your book. Tell us, how did you come up with the idea for your book?

Mark Fine: Thank you Angela for chatting with me. Though they don’t realize it, I would have to credit my two sons. I have this belief that if a people don’t know their history, they are destined to be forever lost. It was important to me that my sons learned about their African roots from their father; but my personal story isn’t that interesting. So I chose to couch the story from the perspective of far more intriguing characters, that of Elsa (who’s white) and Stanwell (who is black) and their daring romance of the no-no kind. The cruel dynamics of the love-struck couple’s story under the racist regime of then South Africa is all theirs, but the place and time that I inserted them is very much mine.

ABC: Stories always require some form of research. What kind of research did you do for your book?

MF: Besides reference works and letting my fingers stroll through the universe that’s Google, I went on safari. In capturing the romance and exotic location for The Zebra Affaire, I had the privilege of viewing many wild creatures in their natural habitats—a life-affirming experience that I strongly suggest for others. Being in the bush, tracking game (with camera, and not firearm) is not a bookish, academic pursuit, which was a welcome change. The composite of the senses are vital to telling a story that’s authentic. And as the climax of the book is resolved in the African bushveld, what better place to begin the writing process.

ABC: Which scene or chapter was the hardest for you to write?

MF: It’s less about a specific scene, than the challenge of ensuring the reader understood the arcane nature of South Africa’s apartheid rules. Without the reader truly appreciating the jeopardy Elsa and Stanwell faced in that turbulent society, the novel would not have the impact it deserved. So, instead of footnotes or endnotes—both devices that pull the reader away from the narrative, I created what critics have favorably called “anywhere notes.” These I inserted within the context of the story. In the wonderful reviews Zebra has received, these “anywhere notes” have been applauded. Readers now better understand the societal construct of the time, and Elsa and Stanwell’s story became more meaningful, touching and emotional.

ABC: Please describe your favorite scene or chapter in your book and tell us why it’s your favorite?

MF: The challenge was to set the stage for this unlikely union; a white woman and black man falling in love, at great personal risk, in a bigoted apartheid world. I don’t wish to reveal too much, but emergency events surrounding a catastrophe was the vehicle I used. Without a solid foundation to establish their relationship, and at the same time reveal the cruelty of apartheid, well, the novel would not have succeeded so handsomely. Fortunately this establishing scene worked, and as such it has become my favorite.

ABC: Which of your characters, do you relate to the most (or) who is your favorite character and why?

MF: The patriarch in the book, a character known by the initials DGF is certainly my favorite. He holds moral authority, decency and strength in an unkind world. Certainly flawed, but he represents all the honorable and kind people of South Africa who tried to make life easier for discriminated majority. He understood that bigotry was dehumanizing, and worked to make a difference. I’d like to believe that DGF is a reflection of my personal sensibilities.

ABC: I once read that every author is simply a compilation of his/her favorite authors. Which authors have done the most to influence your writing and why?

MF: Always enjoyed substantial books that both entertained and informed. It was such a pleasant way to learn. Without a doubt Herman Wouk, Leon Uris, Ken Follett, and South African authors Wilbur Smith, Andre Brink shaped me. I’d like to add Alan Furst to that list. He’s my current favorite.

ABC: “Story” has always been the center of all human cultures. We need it. We seek it out. We invent it. What does “story” mean to you?

MF: Of course, “story” takes me back to being a child, and the best moments were being read to. I was fortunate that my granny owned a private library in Johannesburg, and she shared with me her joy of the printed page. So many stories, and so many rich memories preserved in my mind.

ABC: Tells us about your next project.

MF: The Zebra Affaire is set in 1976 South Africa. I’m considering remaining in sub-Saharan Africa, and setting my next novel, The Hyena Affaire in 1978 Rhodesia (now known as Zimbabwe). I’m in the process of developing the outline, character profiles, and continuing research. Though my books are set back in time, and on a continent many are unfamiliar; the themes are relevant today, considering the tribal turmoil in the Middle East, as an example.

ABC: Where can we find you and your book?

MF: The Zebra Affaire is available in both paperback and Kindle editions. It can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes & Nobles and other fine retailers. For convenience the Amazon link for the Paperback is:http://bit.ly/ZebraAffaireNovel and the Kindle: http://bit.ly/ZebraAffaireKindle

ABC: Thank you again, so much for speaking with me.

MF: You are welcome, Angela. I enjoyed discussing my work with you.

Connect with Mark Fine

Official Website

Mark’s Blog